The Challenge of Flag Closeups

Shooting images containing flags is a thankless task; a dozen good compositions may all be rejected because the flag is not in a photogenic pose. Shooting flags by themselves presents other challenges: everyone knows what the subject matter is, and finding a unique way of framing it is important. Macros of just a portion of a flag will produce interesting images with all the needed content, without all the usual real estate. Adding further elements such as motion blur and selective focus can function to abstract the image, while still leaving the colors and forms clearly visible. One such example is shown below, offering a more poetic, less literal flag image, which would be a good seller for stock image use.

Flag Closeup-1

C. David Tobie

In Search of Artful Motion Blur

At times, we all shoot with settings too slow for the lighting and motion of our images. And, at times, we find a few of the resulting images to be artistically pleasing. The question that arises from this is: how best to improve the likelihood of getting a pleasing shot, from a somewhat random process?

The first step, is to optimize your blur settings, by being sure they are not so slow that everything turns to mush, but also not so fast that the blur does not have time to become pronounced and artistic.

The second step is center the shot on the critical element, so that the focus is most likely to be sharp on the key components of  the image.

The final step is to pan the camera in the direction of the target option’s motion, at a speed to approximate the motion of the object.


The shot above shows a New York Taxi speeding through the streets at night. This method of shooting enhances the sense of speed, while reducing detail in most sections of the image. One factor to pay attention to with street shots at night is LED lights, which cause strobe-like effects that may, or may not, be to your liking. Another factor is unintended faces; in many of my taxi shots, the driver’s face is clear as he looks at the camera, and wonders just why he is being photographed. Here the face has been darkened and reduced in contrast to assure that the viewers eye focusses on the cab, not the cab-driver.

The shot below shows a Gull taking off from its perch. Here luck assisted, along with some discreet editing, in getting the head sharp, along with the fringe of the tail and the legs, providing just enough sharpness to the otherwise extremely blurry image, to make it readable, and pleasing.


C. David Tobie